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I had these 5 pre-summer wishes for Newcastle United – How many have come true…?

6 months ago
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Having written the occasional piece for The Mag over the years, it’s interesting sometimes to look back at what you’ve written to see where your thoughts and predictions turn out to be right…and where they turn out to be hopelessly wrong.

Just before the final game of last season I wrote a piece optimistically looking to the summer ahead, and listing the five things I thought NUFC needed to have a good summer.

The piece back in May was entitled: ‘Newcastle United – 5 things that would make this a good summer.’

So here we are, with the new season about to start – how many of my five wishes have we got?

A new contract for Rafa

Back in May 2018:

“The key to everything really… I’ll be looking to see agreement on a new contract early in the close season. If that happens we can be hopeful – not just because the club will be keeping its biggest asset, but as a sign that Rafa has been given the assurances he needs to persuade him to stay.”

Now:

Well as we all know now, Rafa wasn’t given the assurances he needed. The only silver lining is that for the moment he’s still with us – but one prediction I think can be made confidently, is that in 12 months time Ashley and Rafa won’t both be at the club. One or other of them will be gone.

For Mike Ashley to keep his word

Back in May 2018:

“Ashley has been absolutely clear that he isn’t going to put cash in. But he has said in terms that Rafa can have every spare penny that the club generates. We can’t realistically hope for any more than that – but we can hope that Ashley will keep his word, and that there will be a decent amount of money made available for Rafa to spend.

How much? Not being on the inside, it’s impossible to say. But if Ashley is good to his word, you would expect Newcastle to have an overall budget for transfers and wages comparable to other teams outside the top 6. My guess would be that Rafa will have about £50M plus sales to work with.”

Now:

Ah – how naïve that sounds now. £50M plus sales????? Back in May it all seemed so reasonable!

It turns out I was nothing but a poor, fond, optimistic fool! £50M plus sales, indeed!

There were plenty of you out there back in May saying that we wouldn’t spend anything. Doom-mongers, I thought you were. But it turns out you were right and I was completely wrong.

In fact, even most of the pessimistic wing of the NUFC Doom-Mongers Association didn’t foresee that amidst the financial bonanza of the Premier League, we would actually turn a net transfer profit of £20m or whatever it is. Staggering! I would say it was unbelievable, if I hadn’t seen just seen it unfold before my very eyes.

Sign Dubravka quickly, and offer £20M for Kenedy.

Back in May 2018:

“If any proof were needed that Rafa knows what he’s doing with player recruitment, these two are the evidence. I for one was a bit nonplussed about the ongoing stories last year about Rafa’s search for another keeper …But seeing the difference Dubravka has made, I’ve got to doff my cap to Rafa – he knows his stuff. And we can all see why he was so keen for so long to bring Kenedy to the club. He wouldn’t come cheap, but if we could get him for £20M I reckon that would be good business.”

Now:

Well we got most of the way on this one. Unfortunately, we didn’t buy Kenedy (“offer £20M”!!! – what was I thinking?) – but at least we get to watch him in black-and-white for another season.

A new forward line

Back in May 2018:

“You would expect one or two of our keepers to leave in the summer with Dubravka to sign. You would expect us to be looking for some cover and competition at full-back, with Gamez and Haidara to leave. There might be need for another centre-back since Rafa clearly doesn’t like the cut of Mbemba’s jib… In midfield there might be the odd player traded out for whatever reason (maybe Merino if he wants to leave) and a replacement brought in.

I’ll be looking for all our available money to get spent on someone to play wide on the left (hopefully Kenedy), competition with Perez at no 10, and two front-line strikers. I’m assuming that Mitrovic will go…I can see Gayle leaving as well – though I’d be happy for him to stay. If I was manager of a team looking to get out of the Championship, Gayle would be right at the top of my wish-list…And I can see Adam Armstrong being sold this summer as well.

So for me a good summer’s business would be for Rafa to have about £50m plus say £35m from selling Mitrovic, Gayle and Armstrong. Hopefully spend £20m on Kenedy. That would leave about £60M plus to buy a number 10 and two centre-forwards.”

Now:

And when you look at it, that wasn’t a million miles off on the players-out side. It was on the player-in side that I was about 60 million miles out.

Having said all of that, looking at the players who have come in, I’m hopeful that Rafa has made the best out of what was the lousiest hand imaginable – and our starting 11 looks to me a shade better than last season.

It’s when you look behind the first 11 that you worry. What happens if Dummett or Yedlin or Lascelles or Shelvey or Perez gets injured? I have no idea.

Keep hold of Jamaal Lascelles

Back in May 2018:

“Our skipper is going to have his head turned by all sorts of talk this summer. I think he’s a sensible lad. I hope that he’s able to see that if Rafa stays then things are going in the right direction, and he has the chance to make himself a legend at Newcastle. Better that than a sub at Chelsea.”

Now:

Well, this one I got – although looking at it now it seems pretty clear that Lascelles probably won’t be with us for long. I said earlier that Rafa and Ashley won’t both be at the club in 12 months time – and I think we can say the same about Lascelles and Ashley. If Ashley is still with us this time next year, our manager and our captain will both surely be gone.

To conclude then, looking on the bright side we still have Rafa, and our first 11 looks to me a touch stronger than last season. They were a good bunch of lads last year – most of us enjoyed watching them, and almost all of the key players from that team are still with us.

But other than that it has been a right royal lash-up. A shambles. The mother-of-all-shambles.
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